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Local Tech Wire

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – IBM (NYSE: IBM) is making its move to capitalize on the rapidly growing global market for “netbooks,” launching a Linux-based software package in Africa.

IBM estimates its pricing will be than Microsoft solutions.

The package will also be offered in a cloud-based environment to encourage collaborative computing. It includes Symphony word processing, e-mail, social networking and other applications.

IBM is partnering with U.K.-based Canonical, an open source Ubuntu Linux software developer, for the package that runs on the less expensive and less powerful netbook machines that are much smaller than standard laptops.

Netbook sales have been a bright spot for the global PC industry in an otherwise glum year, with most major suppliers now embracing them.

IBM cited data from AIB Research that projected a quadrupling of netbook sales to 139 million in 2013 from 35 million this year. AIB also says more than 30 percent of netbooks are loaded with Linux and predicts that by 2012 will surpass Microsoft in netbook operating system share.

Early reaction to the IBM announcement was positive fr, the dean of computing at Makerere University in Uganda, who had been briefed about IBM’s plans.

"If IBM keeps its part of the bargain and provides cloud-based applications at affordable prices then this service will revolutionize businesses in Africa," Venansius Barya Baryamureeba told the Wall Street Journal.

In a statement provided by IBM, Baryamureeba pointed out that bringing down costs was important for businesses, governments and entrepreneurs in developing countries.

"Software is an important enabler of the service industry," he said. "However most of the good software is unaffordable by most of the users in developing countries, hence most users in developing countries have resorted to pirated software and free software. But most free software packages can be a nightmare of setup woes, training costs, and processes that just don’t fit your organization. The hope lies in affordable software that is as good as proprietary software, which benefits from economies of scales as a result of targeting a mass market."

IBM plans to offer the package worldwide.

Called “Client for Smart Work” and a “smart client,” the package is designed for businesses that can’t afford traditional PCs and laptops. The solution can run on conventional machines as well as netbooks, IBM said.

"Businesses in emerging markets are looking to gain the freedom and flexibility afforded by open standards," said Bob Picciano, general manager of IBM Lotus Software. "The IBM Client for Smart Work builds on the movement toward open standards and Web-based personal computing by giving people the power to work smarter, regardless of device."

According to IBM, highlights of the client package include support for:

• “ A business can use to build a new network of partners and suppliers to lower costs and reach new customers in outlying areas. LotusLive provides capabilities such as file sharing, online meetings, instant messaging and social networking, starting at only $10 per month.

• “Desktop virtualization: With desktop virtualization based on VERDE software from Virtual Bridges and provided through Inkululeko, organizations can keep costs low through the use of thin-client hardware.

• “Voice computing: A primary physician could make visits to rural villages and collaborate with other medical experts without IT infrastructure using voice access to this smart client. The doctor could send and receive messages with detailed documents that diagnose a patient’s condition, combining firsthand knowledge with recorded and live human expertise far away to determine — in real-time — the best treatment for the patient.”

IBM employs some 10,000 people in the Triangle area.